Over the Fence: The Story of Sacagawea

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    I learned a lot about Sacagawea while  writing a children’s book about her earlier this year. Beautiful cover artwork by Patrick Faricy. Check the book out here.

    Everyone’s heard of Sacagawea, but did you know that the root of her famous story starts with horses?

    It happened like this: In 1804 Lewis & Clark set out in boats on their famous expedition to explore territory on the other side of the Mississippi River (President Thomas Jefferson had just acquired it in the Louisiana Purchase from France). In order to reach the Pacific, the explorers had to cross the Rocky Mountains. In order to cross the Rocky Mountains, they needed horses – strong, tough horses that could carry the Corps of Discovery and all of their gear over the harsh mountains. The nomadic Shoshone Indians lived at the approach to the mountains. The Shoshone were known for their horsemanship. They had sturdy, mountain-savvy Spanish Mustang type horses. One problem: Lewis and Clark did not speak Shoshone. How would they communicate and make a successful trade?

    Spanish Mustang

    That’s where Shoshone-born Sacagawea came in. She was a teen-age girl with a newborn baby when she met Lewis and Clark at the start of their expedition. They hired her husband, a French-Canadian fur trader as an interpreter for their journey. They knew he’d bring his wife along. Sacagawea had loads of girl power. She not only carried her baby all those thousands of miles, she was the key to the explorers’ successful trade for to get mission-critical horses (read more about that here). She helped on the expedition in a lot of other ways, too. But without horses (many of whom died along the way), the Corps of Discovery — as they called themselves — would never have made it up and over those hostile, cold, Rocky Mountains – or back again to share the glory of their expedition.

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